Death of Schools Work - a response
The Death of Schools Work may be a good grabber for a magazine cover, but it hardly does justice to Chris Curtis' article. The Beginning of the Recovery of Schools Work might be a little more accurate, if less exciting. Ironically, this highlights one of the dangers against which Chris warns that of overselling. Schools ministry has often been oversold to the churches ('the answer to all your problems'), and sometimes, sadly, to schools ('we're an educational programme â€“ don't worry about the Christian bit'.) The solution is obvious, and starts with transparency and authenticity, fundamental gospel values. Do Christians offer more of the same, another consumerist dream, or a radical alternative?
Like Chris, I've been in schools work for a long time, 27 years working with Scripture Union. But my schools ministry didn't start when Scripture Union began to pay me! My years as a teacher and before that a pupil were just as much a part of schools ministry. If 'Christian schools work is in crisis' â€“ and I'm not as sure about that as Chris is â€“ it is at least partly because there is too great a focus on Christian schools workers. Apart from a fleeting reference in the article to 'the many Christian staff and pupils' and another to Christian pupils ('often too fewâ€¦ to make a CU practical'), you could be forgiven for thinking that schools ministry is all down to schools and youth workers! If that's true, it is yet another example of the misplaced professionalism which cripples churches and Christian mission. The role of leadership (according to Ephesians 4 at least) is to equip all Christians for ministry.
The inescapable question for me is why has God called many thousands of Christian pupils, teachers and other staff to serve him in school every day, and only a few hundred schools workers? Without pretending to be certain about the mind of God on this (although I'll take a guess if you want me to!), it is clear that my response has to be to help Christians in schools to be as effective as possible in their witness. Scripture Union has been aiming to do this for well over 50 years and continues to see it as a very high priority! Of course schools workers are important, but they are not alone in this ministry. In my experience, the most effective ones aren't necessarily high profile but they do multiply their ministry through supporting and equipping others, particularly the Christians in schools who are on the front line every day.